States with medical marijuana laws on the books saw 24.8 percent fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses compared to states that didn't have such laws, according to the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. That meant 1,729 fewer deaths than expected in 2010 alone, and states saw their overdose rates generally improve each year after their medical marijuana laws were passed, researchers found.
The findings, if they hold up, seem important as policymakers try to get a handle on the prescription painkiller crisis. Those drugs kill more than 16,000 Americans each year, with deaths more than tripling in the past 25 years as prescriptions have also surged.
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